SKY TV lost tens of thousands of pounds' in subscriptions after illegally modified decoder boxes were sold over the internet by a man from Luton.

Businessman Micheal Gearty advertised the TV decoders on Amazon Marketplace, selling them for £100 a time.

His customers, who were all over the country, could watch premium channels without paying for them, Luton crown court heard today/Tuesday.

Kevin Barry, prosecuting, said: "There were a total of 227 users. If each of them had paid for a Sky World package that would have cost £62.25 a month. Over a 12 month period the loss of revenue to BSKYB would be £169,569."

He said computer expert Steven Ellis had set up the operation in Luton on behalf of Gearty, 57.

In his basis of plea to the court Gearty said the scam had been set up by his deceased brother Les and he had taken it on. That was not accepted by the prosecution, said Mr Barry.

"The illegally modified Dream decoder set top boxes allowed people to watch television they did not have to pay for. They were advertised on Amazon Marketplace as giving free access to Sky. Amazon are now wise to that."

103 boxes were sold over Amazon with the remaining 125 distributed through other means.

The money received was paid into bank accounts for Bedfordshire Property Services Limited, Gearty's company.

Gearty bought at least two genuine Sky subscriptions, which were paid for from his business account. Ellis was able to send out decoded broadcasts from a server set up in Runley Road, Luton - a multi-occupancy property in which Gearty had a stake.

Investigators from Sky became aware of the scam and alerted Beds police who raided properties in Luton and Dunstable on 13 February last year.

When the server was examined it was found to be able to send decoded channels to 2,000 boxes, said the prosecutor.

Gearty, of Wodecroft Road, Luton, pleaded guilty on the day of his trial to supplying articles for use in fraud and converting £10,225.85p of criminal property between May 2010 and February 2012 - that was the money received from the Amazon sales.

Ellis, of Bowles Way, Dunstable, pleaded guilty to making unauthorised decoders. The prosecutor said his role was technical and he had not profited to any great extent. When questioned by the police, he said he had done it because it was a technical challenge and had only received pizza.

He had one reprimand from 2003 for obtaining property by deception.

Cameron Scott, defending, said the business had been begun by Gearty's deceased brother Les. "He realised it was not a legitimate business but did not extract himself from it.

"Sky will say they suffered a loss of income but not all of those who purchased these boxes would have been prepared to pay for a full Sky service. That is why they bought the boxes."

Mr Scott said Ellis was the "technical brains" and played only a minor role. He said Ellis, who has Aspergers and dyspraxia, had been put under pressure by Les Gearty to get involved.

Judge Michael Kay QC jailed Gearty for 16 months and passed a 12 month community order on Ellis, who must perform 150 hours' unpaid work, be supervised by probation for 12 months and abide by a 3 month curfew between 7pm and 6am for 3 months,

The judge said: "This was a planned fraud with some level of sophistication."


source : luton-dunstable.co.uk/News/Scam-which-cost-Sky-TV-more-than-100000-was-run-from-property-in-Luton-20131217153000.htm